• brendan benson My Old, Familiar Friend (LP, £23.95)

    label: echo

    Following his phenomenal success with The Raconteurs, Brendan Benson returns with his fourth and finest solo album, “My Old, Familiar Friend”. Recorded in Nashville and London, produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Maximo Park, Foo Fighters) and mixed by Dave Sardy (The Rolling Stones, LCD Soundsystem, Oasis) “My Old, Familiar Friend” is a marriage of passion and perfectionism and an illustration of all that is special about Benson. From the seductive glimmer of “Feel Like Taking You Home” to the Motown swoon of “Garbage Day” Benson has shaped his restless-hearted stories into songs that fit together with exquisite neatness and carry the delicious clunk-click of rhyme. It is a style he has honed, of course. On 1996’s “One Mississippi”, the songs came rough-hewn but charged with hooks and with wit; 2002’s “Lapalco” brought a perfect pop ripeness, and by “The Alternative to Love” in 2005 there was something quite brilliant and burnished about his songwriting. Along the way he has co-written and recorded two spectacular albums with The Raconteurs, “Broken Boy Soldiers” and “Consolers of the Lonely”. For Benson, the Raconteurs was not just an opportunity to play with close friends Jack White and the Greenhornes' Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, but also a chance to roll around in the rock, psychedelia and blues that has shaped his musical taste. Through all of the songs on “My Old, Familiar Friend” ribbons a delight in melody. Benson’s musical approach is detailed, craftsmanlike and fastidious. Take for instance “A Whole Lot Better” in which harmonies, handclaps and guitar are layered to produce a work of such heart-filled buoyancy, a work that culminates in the sweet, dove-tailing swoop of its refrain: “I fell in love with you/ And out of love with you/ And back in love with you/ All in the same day.” These are songs that arrived perfectly formed and immaculate, songs from the very top drawer... the sound of a classic singer/songwriter operating at the top of his game.

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